SES volunteers assist at the scene of the murder investigation at Tabulam in March 2006.
SES volunteers assist at the scene of the murder investigation at Tabulam in March 2006.

Mental state affects sentence

By HELEN JACK helen.jack@northernstar.com.au LUKE MACUIK has been found not guilty of murdering his father on the grounds of mental illness.

But he was found guilty of manslaughter and will now be referred to mental health authorities.

The verdict was handed down by Lismore Supreme Court Justice Graham Barr yesterday after crown prosecutor Colin McPherson agreed with Macuik's defence barrister, Chris Bruce, Macuik was suffering severe schizophrenia when he committed the crime.

Over five days the court heard evidence from four psychiatrists, Macuik's mother and legal aid solicitor Hugh Van Dugteren.

The crown argued Macuik was in a rage when he struck his father, 56, with a hammer.

The defence argued Macuik's rage was fuelled by his paranoid delusions eliminating his ability to reason and process his emotions.

During the trial the court heard how Macuik, 24, began displaying symptoms of schizophrenia around the age of 18.

His excessive use of cannabis fuelled his delusions. He believed he was being stalked and spied upon.

Macuik's mother, Kim Godfrey, told the court how difficult it was to get help for her son.

His parents had separated many years before and Macuik had moved from one home to the other.

Near the end of 2002 Macuik was living with his mother at Tweed Heads.

During that time she consulted a GP in an effort to end Macuik's addiction to cannabis.

Shortly afterwards he raised his fist to her in an argument and was sent to live with his father who was, at that time, living in nearby Tumbulgum.

While there, he also threatened his father and barricaded himself in the house.

In 2003 father and son moved to a farm at Tabulam where they planned to earn a living growing olives.

Without his mental illness formally diagnosed, and in the isolation of the farm, Macuik's schizophrenia grew worse.

He believed his parents were involved with criminals who ran drugs and his neighbours were spies.

Then, in January 2006, after his father returned home from a visit to Byron Bay at New Year, Macuik decided the man who came home was not his father but a clone of his father.

In the weeks following, the relationship between the pair deteriorated.

After another trip away Macuik thought his father had sold the farm behind his back.

He became enraged. He hit his father on the head with a hammer and cut his throat.

Using an excavator he dug his father's grave, wrapped his father in a blanket and%buried him there.

Psychiatrist Dr Olav Nielsen, who examined Macuik after his arrest in March 2006, told the court he believed Macuik, in his delusional state, believed the man he had killed was not his father but a clone.

Since Macuik's arrest and diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia, Dr Nielsen said his condition had improved and he was able to understand and disclose details of the incident.



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